More Aphorisms by Tim Daly

I first blogged about Tim Daly’s aphorisms back on May 3, 2008. Here are several more sayings, many of which follow an almost mathematical formula characteristic of a certain strain of counter-intuitive aphorism: If X, then Y. Many aphorisms take on this almost syllogistic structure. There is a process of deduction at work in deciphering an aphorism, though that process does not necessarily obey the laws of conventional logic. In fact, aphorists often use this structure precisely to lead readers astray, to prepare them to expect some trite conclusion before slipping in some apposite or unconventional truth, as Tim Daly does here:

Whilst stories cannot die, some are never told.

With great irresponsibility comes great power.

When you find yourself in denial, plant seeds.

Ego: The illusion of being only one person.

Aphorisms by Clint Frakes

Clint Frakes is a poet, a graduate of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute, the Northern Arizona University writing program, and the University of Hawaii. He has published widely in literary journals in North America, England, Australia, and Argentina. His aphorisms are imagistic; imagery rather than overt statement conveys the message. Yet the sayings are moralistic, too; couched in the image is a little lesson. These aphorisms are published in FragLit, the online journal dedicated to the fragment and all things brief, edited by Olivia Dresher.

The most telling artifact is usually in the garbage.

When you’re lost you take everything as a sign.

Destiny: a drunk ambushing a flock of birds.

Usually one must first be sick before one is brave.

Only when I was completely drenched did I bother to smell the rain.

To read more of Clint Frakes’s aphorisms, click here.

Aphorisms by Richard Krause

A native of New York City, Richard Krause is the author of the collection of stories, Studies in Insignificance, and his writing has also appeared in a variety of U.S. literary magazines. He teaches English at Somerset Community College in Kentucky. His aphorisms often take the form of ‘proverbial play’; i.e. the core of the aphorism consists of a well-known proverbial saying or familiar expression, which the aphorism then tweaks through some ironic reversal or witty gloss. It’s a tough trick to pull off, since these types of sayings can easily seem contrived or merely apposite. Krause does it with panache. These aphorisms are published in
FragLit, the online journal dedicated to the fragment and all things brief, edited by Olivia Dresher.

Even if you seize the moment it will leave tooth marks on your neck while sleeping.

Nothing blows brilliance to the wind like caution.

If you ignore people enough they eventually go away, ignore yourself however and you will come back as one of them.

If you think people are out to get you, they already have.

Putting people in their place shows that you yourself have nowhere to go.

The faith you lose in people is almost enough to start a religion elsewhere.

When you are washed up you never realize the extent of shoreline you have to yourself.

To read more of Richard Krause’s aphorisms, click here.

On Dust

It is ubiquitous but hidden, until sunlight streams through a window to reveal that we are swimming in it. It swirls around and surrounds us like krill in an ocean current. We cannot escape it. It falls like rain, incessantly, until it covers everything, like silt at the bottom of a lake. The slightest movement stirs up whole galaxies of the stuff, spiral nebulae of hair follicles and skin flakes. We move from day to day, from room to room, like comets, shedding shreds and fragments in our wakes. When the light changes, though, the trail vanishes. Dust still swarms in secret onto every surface, but we can’t see it. Even what is nearest, most prolific is invisible unless properly lit.

A version of this abbreviated essay appears in the January-February issue of Ode.

Aphorisms by William Stafford

William Stafford is often classified as a “Western” poet, much in the same way that Robert Frost is classified as a “New England” poet. In fact, the poetry of the two men is similar in many respects: a concern with the natural world, a focus on the quotidian, and a dedication to clear, almost conversational speech. I had no idea that Stafford, who died in 1993, also wrote aphorisms, until Jim Finnegan, proprietor of the ursprache blog alerted me. Stafford’s aphorisms are a lot like his poems—deceptively prosaic and dwelling on seemingly insignificant details that suddenly open a panoramic vista onto the wild west of the human spirit.

The selection below comes from Stafford’s “Aphorisms,” which is included in In Pieces: An Anthology of Fragmentary Writing (Impassio Press, 2006) edited by Olivia Dresher.

My thanks to Jim Finnegan for sharing Stafford’s aphorisms with me. If you like thinking about poetry, check out his ursprache blog.

It is legitimate to crawl, after the wings are broken.

Every mountain has that one place when you begin to know it is a mountain.

Lost pioneers were the ones who found the best valleys.

If there is a trail, you have taken a wrong turn.

I hear the clock’s little teeth gnawing at time.

At first it’s not much of a river.

At the German Aphorism Conference

A report from the Third German Aphorists Conference—Wit, Image, Sense—held in Hattingen from Nov. 6 – 8, 2008, by Jurgen Wilbert:

“The theme of the third meeting of aphorists at Hattingen/Ruhr, near the towns of Bochum and Essen, was the three different aspects of the aphorism: wit, image, and sense. The conference again took place at the Stadtmuseum (town museum) of Hattingen, organized by the German Aphorism Archive (DAphA, founded by Friedemann Spicker and Jürgen Wilbert) and the Stadtmuseum (Petra Kamburg). This convention was more international than the preceding meetings in 2004 and 2006. In her opening address, the Mayoress of Hattingen, Dr. Dagmar Goch, particularly welcomed the participants from other countries, which included Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg, the U.K., Israel, and Finland.

From Jerusalem came Elazar Benyoetz, the famous German-language aphorist. His profound reading/lecture was a highlight of the opening program. The musical cabaret by the duo Faltsch Wagoni on Thursday evening delighted and inspired the audience. During Friday and Saturday, a series of lectures explored the three facets of the aphorism. James Geary presented his lively juggling aphorisms performance, with many autobiographical and literary remarks.

On Friday morning, a dozen aphorists traveled to six secondary schools in Hattingen and vicinity to present introductions to this shortest of literary genres, using lots of entertaining examples. On Friday evening there were special readings at three different locations in the center of town: the Mayas bistro, the Refugium wine bar, and the Napp (Mirhoff & Fischer) bookshop. The topics of these readings included aphorisms and medicine, aphorisms and philosophy, and aphorisms and eroticism. All venues were filled to capacity. The workshops an Saturday dealt with the central questions of the conference – wit and aphorism, image and aphorism, and sense and aphorism. There was also a workshop on how to present and perform aphorisms. At the end of the meeting, the audience was enthusiastic about Markus Jeroch, a fantastic word juggler from Berlin. Thus, the conference came to a really thrilling finale. You can read all about the conference on the German Aphorism Conference website, and the results will be included in the forthcoming book based on the conference, due to be published in June.

The next German Aphorists Conference will take place in 2010, the year that the Ruhr region is the European Capital of Culture. Certainly this meeting will be even more European, because one of the fundamental subjects will be the question of how to translate aphorisms into other languages.

For more information, visit German Aphorism Archive or contact

Aphorisms and Accidents

Due to the sudden and inexplicable disappearance of my hosting company, this website disappeared for roughly 24 hours last month. It is now mostly recovered, but all comments received before about Dec. 19 2008 seem to be permanently lost. There is, of course, an aphorism for this kind of thing: Shit happens. If you spot something missing on the site, please let me know. Thank you and happy 2009!